Saturday, October 30, 2010

Vegas Podcast-A-Palooza Is TODAY! #vpp

We are LIVE today at the Flamingo Las Vegas' GO Pool for the third annual Vegas Podcast-a-Palooza!

The three biggest independent Vegas podcasts will perform live versions of their shows from 4-6:30 p.m. PT, and you can either attend in person for free or watch via the Web. Or, of course, you can pick up each show separately.

First up is "Vegas Gang" with Tropicana president Tom McCartney as their special guest. (Regular Vegas Gangstars are former Sun scribe Jeff Simpson, Hunter Hillegas of RateVegas.Com, Dave Schwartz of UNLV and Vegas Seven, and Chuck Monster of VegasTripping.Com.)

Then Miles and I are for "The Strip" on with our guests, Rita Rudner and her husband, Martin Bergman. And finally, Tim & Michele of "Five Hundy By Midnight" will be on. After that, Harrah's is hosting a nifty little reception. They're also giving away pretty cool prizes, and Total Rewards members who attend get a 3x multiplier for the weekend.

If you can't make it, watch it on the LIVESTREAM and chat with fellow viewers/listeners. If you CAN, here's how to find us:

Thanks to John Katsilometes of the Las Vegas Sun for the blurb in today's paper, and Vegas Gangstar Dave Schwartz for his column in Vegas Seven!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Geeking Out On Voter Data: Harry Reid's In Trouble

I'm on the hook to be supplying election data and analysis (off-air) for a major TV network in addition to my other clients this election, so I've spent the past two days digging deep into the numbers that are out there right now. Today is the final day of early voting, and at least 33.4 percent of registered voters have already cast ballots or mailed them in.

The only thing we really know is how many people of each party have voted early or by mail for four counties that represent nearly 90% of the state, Clark (Vegas), Washoe (Reno), Carson City and Douglas (South shore, Tahoe). The Nevada Secretary of State has also put out party breakdown for the first week of early voting for all counties, so I've incorporated that data as well. (The other 13 counties do not provide daily breakouts of party affiliations.)

I know, I know. It's a lot of numbers. But here's some of what I've distilled:

* As of this morning, Democrats hold about a very tenuous 7,400-vote lead statewide out of more than 330,000 cast, a figure that includes the four counties with up-to-date data plus the first-week totals from the rest of the state. It's actually probably a lot smaller because we haven't got second-week breakdown from 13 counties that represent 10 percent of the state.

* 55,423 "others" have already voted. The GOP needs about 57% of those to neutralize the Democratic statewide advantage.

* All of this, of course, assume that all D's vote D and all R's vote R. They don't, obviously, and Jon Ralston wrote that behind recent CNN-Time poll (which was 49-45 Angle but of which he questions the age of the sample) found significantly more D's said they were voting D than R's for R. If that's true, Harry Reid wins. However, the R-J is out today with another 49-45 poll for Angle in which both candidates are getting about the same support from their own party and Angle is getting 55 percent of independents. The R-J poll doesn't show the oversampling of independents that Ralston found in the CNN-Time poll, either.

* The big question is whether the Republicans are more energized. I've analyzed the data for the four counties that are up-to-date as well as the first-week party-breakdown data for the other four counties with more than 10,000 residents. Together, that accounts for more than 97 percent of the state. The result? In every county, Republicans are outperforming their share of the electorate by at least 5 percentage points and in several cases more than 7 points. That's a GOP surge.

* The reasons why it doesn't make for an automatic Sharron Angle landslide is (a) not all R's vote R and (b) a 5-point overperformance in Clark County by Republicans still doesn't overcome the Democrats' registration advantage there, and Clark County is 66 percent of the state.

The real conclusion is, of course, that there is none. If:

* ...independents break big for Angle, she wins.
* ...the Democrats' mythologized, legendary get-out-the-vote apparatus kicks in today and on Tuesday in Clark County, Reid might win.
* ...anti-Reid voters split a few points among minor-partiers and "none of these jerks," Reid might win.

One more point. It is likely that 60 percent of those who vote will have voted by the end of today. Rarely do percentages change much in terms of party breakdown or even vote outcome percentages after that. That is, the first bunch of numbers we see at about 8 p.m. PT on Tuesday night will be all of this and, historically, the standings don't budge much after that.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lion King Closure Doesn't Make It A Failure

I must respectfully disagree with my colleague and occasional "The Strip" substitute host David McKee's current post seemingly seeking explanations as to why The Lion King is closing at the end of 2011, as if the decision announced Wednesday means it's a failure.

The only yardstick by which the tenure of The Lion King at Mandalay Bay can be judges a loser is by the standard that Vegas shows are supposed to last forever and ever. There are a precious few shows that do that, and TLK's 2.5-year residency here is nothing to scoff at or to autopsy.

Shows do run their course. This one, from everybody I've spoken to internally at MGM Resorts, has actually exceeded expectations and occasionally even set records. They signed it for a year, extended it twice. To me, it seemed risky -- very visual, which Vegas loves, but also very much a children's tale and one with a far-less-known score than Mamma Mia!, Jersey Boys or Phantom. It's also really long and has an intermission, which was part of what doomed Avenue Q at Wynn. Yet it outlasted AveQ as well as Spamalot, The Producers and Hairspray. So there.

The other reason why TLK is far less responsible for its departure than other shows is, as McKee also noted, Cirque du Soleil has been waiting in the wings for a place to land its permanent Michael Jackson show. We do know the process here, right? TLK leaves at the end of 2011, Cirque overhauls the theater throughout 2012 (construction jobs, yay!) and the new show bows in 2013, as Cirque CEO Daniel Lamarre told Robin Leach last week.

One other thing. I suspect that Mandalay Bay, which has hosted Chicago, then MM!, then TLK, may no longer feel that the theater needs to be a Broadway stage given that in 2012, the Smith Center For The Performing Arts opens west of downtown and proper Broadway tours will start passing through annually, starting with Wicked in 2012. And while I still think there's a chance the Cirque-MJ show could land at Monte Carlo, the audience makeup I saw at Jabbawockeez on Saturday night must have MGM hearts dancing.

Anyhow, TLK has done just fine. And don't forget that had we never had it here, we wouldn't have had this:

Of Reid, Angle, Reid and . . . Vince Neil?!?

Today would happen to be the day that a bunch of pieces I've been working on crash-land simultaneously:

* 50/50 America: Tired of the senseless discourse and worried that the nation is impossibly polarized? Take heart by checking out the debate I engineered for Politics Daily between two middle-class neighbors who share a wall but very, very different philosophies and perfectly reflect the broader national divide. Dave Alexander is a hard-core Tea Party activist -- he's actually caravaning right now with the Tea Party Express tour -- and Jodi Warman is a lifelong Democrat. And yet he's pro-choice and pro-gay equality, she wishes the health care reform bill had taken on trial lawyers. This piece has been on the Welcome Screen of AOL for the day and heavily blogged. (BONUS: I'm visible in the reflection of the window in the photo.) It's something that the poll-obsessed political pundits really never do -- talk to actual voters. Or encourage them to talk to one another.

* The Son Also Falls: Over at The Daily Beast, I take a look today at the inner workings of the Harry Reid-Rory Reid dynamic at this stage of the two-Reids-on-the-ticket political year. Rory Reid's mother-in-law provided an amazing opening anecdote and U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley wistfully wished she had dissuaded Rory from running.

* Remember This? Last spring, Portfolio.Com asked me to profile Motley Crue rocker Vince Neil for part of a series called Eponymous, about brands that are also people's names. I did the interview, filed the piece, got paid for it, posted the podcast of the interview and watched all summer as Neil had repeated scandals. Well, the site is finally up to publishing the series, so I updated the thing and it's up. I've got another part of that series waiting to go, too, about Steve Wynn.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Vegas Exports Cuisine...To New York?!?

A couple of years ago, I met up with a guy I dated for about six minutes in college while visiting NYC. He had married a New York chef and become a real foodie and boy did it show. Not (only) in his girth, but in his snobbery. He mercilessly mocked the notion of fine cuisine in Las Vegas, unimpressed even as I ticked off several James Beard winners and other notables -- Rick Moonen, Alex Stratta, Paul Bartalotta, Julian Serrano among them -- doing wonderful things here. And I noted that Joel Robuchon and Guy Savoy landed on the Strip first, not on Manhattan.

So I was particularly thrilled to just forward him this New York Times piece that I missed from yesterday but that John Curtas just Tweeted about the famed off-Strip Thai pot Lotus of Siam opening shop in the West Village ... on FIFTH AVENUE! Pow! Zap! Bam!

I'm not sure this has ever happened before, a Vegas original landing in The City or, for that matter, any other culinary capital. I'm actually not even that fond of Lotus -- I've left with a stomach ache almost every time I've visited -- but Gourmet Magazine scribe Jonathan Gold once called it the best Thai restaurant in North America, so what do I know? And I can be proud even as I'm not a fan, right? Like how I feel about The Killers?

I'm curious, though, why the Lotus folks haven't made the move to The Strip, too. My instinct is that the typical Strip resort owner doesn't believe the public wants something that authentic. That's why we end up with such bland Mexican (Diego) and Chinese (Fin) offerings, because they dumb it down.

The show is UP: Wayne's World!

The beauty of podcasting is that we're not constrained by time. This week's episode is one of those when that leisure is certainly an advantage. Wayne Newton was loose and chatty, and there was no reason to leave out much of anything. The result is a fascinating experience hearing him answer many questions he's never been asked and giving him the chance to really explain himself, for better or worse. You can click on the date below to get it to play or right-click on it to download it to listen at your leisure. Or, of course, subscribe for free in iTunes or Zune. -sf

Oct. 25: SUPERSIZED! Wayne's World

Wayne Newton is not broke. Really. Just ask him, and he’ll tell you all about it. We did so, as you’re about to hear, and Mr. Las Vegas is surprisingly forthcoming about all those recent lawsuits and much more. Steve visited Newton this week at his ranch, Casa de Shenandoah, to hear all about the plans to open his home and property to tours along with a nearby museum for Las Vegas entertainer history. Also, how does the Wayner keep his hair so darned black? Why does his left eye shimmer? Has he ever influenced a president? And how will he know when his voice has given out to the point he can't perform anymore?

In Banter: Sinatra dances with Wynn, Harrah's dances with an IPO, the Cosmo dances with pets and TV ads and the Gift of Lights banishes itself to the Speedway.

Links to Stuff Discussed:

Wayne Newton’s home pix on Flickr and on VegasHappensHere.Com
Wayne’s official site
News about Wayne’s tumultuous meeting with neighbors and the “abandoned” plane
Twyla Tharp’s Sinatra Dance With Me coming to the Wynn
Robin Leach’s Cirque scoop
Howard Stutz of the R-J on Harrah’s plans to go public
BMX Superstar TJ Lavin’s latest condition
Gift of Lights moving to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway?!?
Comparing The Cosmopolitan’s first TV ad to Aria's
VegasTripping.Com on the Cosmo announcing they will be pet friendly

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pictorial: Wayne Newton's Las Vegas Home

This week's episode of "The Strip" features my lengthy, illuminating discussion with Wayne Newton, whose plans to turn his ranch, Casa de Shenandoah, into a tourist attraction has garnered some controversy. I've taken a bunch of photos of the home and what folks might see, although it was pouring rain that day and I didn't get to do as much outside of the main house as I would have liked.

Nonetheless, I created a Flickr set you can peruse if you're interested. Above is an ornate dining room table centerpiece and here's one of the many peacocks bopping around the estate:


You might recall from my interview with Wayne last year that he told a hilarious tale of having to buy his own stuff back on eBay after they'd been pilfered from his house. One of those is this signed Lucy photo:

The Lucy Photo

The peacocks aren't the only animals on the ranch, of course. There are horses and other caged birds and...

Wayne's monkey

...this marmoset. No word if the indoor animals will be on display whenever Wayne opens the property to guided tours.

RJ Publisher Hates The Media!!!

Sherm, man. I've tried. I really, really have tried. I've done more than anyone in this state to evaluate your reporters' work as separate from your advocacy, to allow you your opinions, to acknowledge that your counterparts at the Las Vegas Sun are at least equally tainted in their strident, overt political views on the Reid-Angle race and how it impacts their coverage.

But last night, you truly and spectacularly hit a new low. I am in awe of you, and in the worst possible way.

In Review-Journal publisher Sherm Frederick's latest blog post, he celebrates (!) the fact that Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle faked out the media. He thinks it's cool, clever and amusing that a woman who would represent the state in the most powerful deliberative body on Earth is so afraid of answering questions from reporters that she deploys a decoy to throw them off her trail.

If Sherm Frederick were any old Republican political hack -- and, frankly, he may very well be -- maybe I'd get this. But he is the publisher of the state's largest newspaper. His most important "political position" ought to be in the service of ensuring his reporters can do their jobs, that his publication be as unfettered as possible in the pursuit of getting information and providing it to the public. He ought to be viscerally offended by the behavior of someone like Angle at this stage of this important historic moment.

Instead, we have a major newspaper publisher who thinks it's a riot when a candidate who has been shown to have lied incessantly and repeatedly is so uncertain of her ability to talk to the media that she resorts to juvenile trickery. We have a major newspaper publisher who parrots the Rush Limbaugh-Sarah Palin line about a "compliant press" when he knows they're just trying to get a woman on the verge of immense power to subject herself to the same scrutiny and rigors that politicians have always expected and the public demands and needs. What would he, as a publisher and lifelong newspaperman, have the state's journalists do, sit home until next week and then dutifully report the outcome? Angle didn't even have the guts to speak to HIS reporters since her primary victory; is he saying his own reporters are "compliant" and unworthy of her attention?

Frederick is welcome to support Angle. That's his choice. But his top job is running a news operation and ensuring its legitimacy and viability. Is it really unreasonable for journalists to want to speak to the focal point of the most significant news story of the year as that story is about to climax? That's compliance?

No, Sherm. That's their jobs. And you just sold out yours for a cheap political attack.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Shelley Berkley on Obama, Vegas, Israel & More

Isn't that an awesome, totally Vegas-geographically bizarre collage? To really understand all its parts, you probably ought to read my saucy profile of Rep. Shelley Berkley that's up this morning on TabletMag.Com. Tablet is the Jewish-centric Web publication edited and written by former New Yorker, Vanity Fair and others. I did a lengthy piece on the poker-playing Mizrachi brothers last summer, too.

This is the first result of my all-day jaunt with Berkley in September and is probably most notable for the fact that Berkley openly stated the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 2012 is hers for the taking and for the fact that she told a constituent that Obama has "blown it" with the Jews.

This coming week's Las Vegas Weekly column will delve further into the political chatter we had, and there'll be a longer piece in, probably, December, for David Magazine, a new glossy Vegas Jewish publication, describing our entire Rosh Hashanah adventure.

Oh, and that's Berkley (right) with the stuffed giraffe she bought at the closing sale for FAO Schwarz at the Forum Shops. No, she hasn't named him. Yes, I asked.